Irish News Talks To FWW's Cahir About Signing To Atlantic Records
Back in January 2004, a marginally slimmer and slightly less wrinkled version of your Noise Annoys host first discovered one of his favourite bands.
Having just caught the then fledgling new act supporting Torgas Valley Reds at The Pavilion, this eager young whipper-snapper was so impressed with their Nirvana/Weezer/Foo Fighters inspired ruckus that he duly proclaimed the following in print:
“For a band barely six months old they are very much the finished product. This muscular three-piece are officially the band you need to see as soon as humanly possible. Someone release their records, like NOW.”
Needless to say, that band were Derry’s Fighting With Wire.
Four years, three bass players and a shed load of hardcore touring later, their debut album, Man Vs Monster has finally been released via Smalltown America (www.smalltownamerica.co.uk), Jetplane Landing man Andrew Ferris’s tastemaking DIY label.
Simply put, 'Man Vs Monster' is the best honest-to-goodness alternative rock record to come out of Northern Ireland since Therapy?’s "Troublegum".
Hell, it’s the best honest-to-goodness alternative rock record to come out of anywhere in years.
Appropriately then, a few weeks ago the Derry trio (comprised of guitarist and singer Cahir O’Doherty, drummer Craig McKean and bassist Jamie King) joined the all-too-short list of local bands to land major label deals.
Having signed to Atlantic Records for an undisclosed sum, they’re now proof positive that all good things come to those who work bloody hard for ages for very little return.
Noise Annoys caught up with frontman Cahir via email earlier in the week to get the low-down on Fighting With Wire’s bright looking future.
How exactly did the deal with Atlantic Records come about?
“A guy called Andy Ashton who used to run XFM in London started a website called Shadowglobe (www.shadowglobe.com), which is like an online radio/MySpace kind of thing.
“I created a profile and uploaded three tracks. Andy and the guys at Shadowglobe loved the songs and sent me a message to say they were gonna play them to some of their contacts, including Zane Lowe and Craig Kallman who is the chairman of Atlantic Records.
“Zane loved the tracks and started playing our next single "Everyone Needs A Nemesis" straight away on his show, which in itself was an amazing breakthrough for our band.
“Then I got a call from Craig Kallman, who also loved the tracks and wanted to hear the band live. He flew us to New York to do a showcase.
“Basically, we went out to NYC, rocked five songs, they liked it, so they offered us a deal. Then Warner Chappell offered us a publishing deal as well.”
Were there any other big record companies interested in working with the band?
What was the most important element of any prospective deal as far as you were concerned?
“EMI got in touch with us while we were in America but by that point we’d pretty much made up our minds about Atlantic. We had meetings at Atlantic and met everyone from all the different departments.
“To be honest, they smashed any preconceptions I had about major labels. They were more like an indie, that really appealed to us.
“We asked Andrew Ferris to come to New York with us to help, in case they put a deal on the table. We totally trust Andrew 100 per cent and he was an amazing help.
“I think that the people at Atlantic saw something special in Smalltown America and how it operates because they wanted them to stay involved with the band.
“It was important to us that we retained creative control and we got what we wanted. The fact that this major label understood that no one knows this band better than us was a breath of fresh air.”
'Man Vs Monster' was released this week on Smalltown America. How does it feel to finally have an album out there?
“It feels great! I hope people like it, we worked hard on this record and we will work even harder on the next one. It won’t take as long as 'Man Vs Monster', I promise! We’ve been working on a lot of new material, I’d like to record it this time next year maybe.”
Will 'Man Vs Monster' will be getting an American release? Also, will the band continue to work with Smalltown America and other DIY labels for one-off projects in the future?
“A brilliant indie label called Photofinish based in New York will be putting the record out in the US. Atlantic will then step in at a certain point.
“We think it’s important for a band to start from the bottom and grind it out, touring and putting out your own records. It helps you focus and to appreciate the people who work hard to put you on the road and the fans who keep you on the road. “Fighting With Wire have been doing this for the last four years, so signing to a major will not change us a great deal. The fact of the matter is, we now have a great opportunity to get our music to a larger audience. Other than that, it’s business as usual.”
How much help have locally based music resources like NIMIC been to you over the past couple of years? Who have you turned to in the past when you’ve been in need of advice on band-related matters?
“To be honest, NIMIC haven’t helped our band at all. I’m not gonna slag them off because they have helped lots of other bands, but I do feel they could do a lot more.
“It’s down to the bands to make things happen for themselves. You have to have a good work ethic and good songs - sex, drugs and rock n’ roll is bullshit! This is hard work make no mistake.
“There are so many amazing people working in Northern Ireland to help bands and young musicians/songwriters; TwoStep, Bruised Fruit, AU Magazine, Graham Smith, ATL, Neal Calderwood, The Nerve Centre, Joe Dougan.
“I actually think Joe (local promoter and drummer extraordinaire) should be made president of the NI music scene! He’ll kill me for that, but he’s connected with lots of bands and helped them no matter what. So has Paddy Glasgow and everyone at the Glasgowbury Festival. I totally respect that.
“When I’m in need of band-related advice, I always turn to Andrew Ferris. He’s always got good advice for everyone.”
Does an unsigned band need a manager?
If so what should they be looking for from the potential candidate?
“That depends - we took on a manager too early and it almost destroyed us! You can do it yourself to a point, my advice would be to try and get an agent first. He can book you some great shows.
“Deal with everyone yourself. Build great relationships with promoters, press, bands, eventually a manager will come that you trust and the time will be right. Just worry about writing good songs!”
If the deal with Atlantic hadn’t happened, how much longer do you think the band would have survived on a DIY basis?
“Craig and myself talked about how much longer we could do this at a party at Christmas and we decided to give it ‘til September 2008 and call it a day. Then all this crazy stuff happened.”
If you could make it happen, the next local band to get a major record deal would be who?
“That’s a tough question, I love so many Northern Irish bands. I’d have to say LaFaro (www.myspace.com/lafarorock), I love them!”
What’s your main goal for the band over the next 12 months is?
“Tour, tour, tour, get our album out in America, tour, tour, tour, start recording album two!”
Fighting With Wire celebrate their current good fortune tonight by kicking it old school with a home town show in the back room of Sandino’s, with support from Smalltown America labelmate Alan MX. This will act as a warm-up for their impending dates supporting Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly.
Anyone who doubts Atlantic’s wisdom in signing the band would do well to attend tonight, where they can witness the inevitable concussion of sweat-soaked rock and roll nirvana for themselves. Deodorant is a must.
- Fighting With Wire, with Alan MX, tonight, Sandino’s, Derry. Admission is £5,
doors are at 9pm.
For more information on the band see www.myspace.com/fightingwithwire
- David Roy, Irish News
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